Corpus Christi In Perchtoldsdorf

The Village Brass Brings Residents out of Their Homes for A Glass of Wine and an Irresistible Sense of Community

Community becomes theatre during the Corpus Christi (Fronleichnam) procession In the small town of Perchtoldsdorf, near Vienna, – which takes place 10 days after the rest of Austria and the world celebrate.

Called Corpus Christi – the body of Christ, or Eucharist, that each Catholic can receive during the most important part of the mass – the celebration began when St. Juliana, a nun from Belgium, told of a vision she had had to Robert de Thorete, Bishop of Liège, who ordered that the fest be held in his diocese.  The order from Rome would take another 60 years and the General Council of Vienna in 1311 that the feast became an official feast day of the Catholic church.   And while the decrees do not require a procession, it is usually part of the celebrations.

While most of the world sets Corpus Christi on the Sunday after Trinity, in Perchtoldsdorf it takes place later: Legend blames a Turkish Siege, for the delay, also insistinf that it never rains on this date as the event takes place outside along the streets of the village.

In the ten days between the original holiday and the Perchtoldsdorf event, the village brass band goes up and down the roads playing songs for the residents outside their homes, hoping for contributions and perhaps a glass of wine or schnapps should the weather require a little extra inner warmth.

There finest hour thought is during the procession, which includes the children who have received first communion, the boy and girl scouts and various other community clubs and associations.  The quiet streets are adorned with hazelnut and birch branches sold to the various shops and houses along the route of the procession and set upright along the sidewalks to decorate the path.  Thus it looks like a procession through a “forest” of greenery.  Taller birch trees are placed within the 13th century church in the middle of the village, which is the beginning and ending point of the procession.

This year, on June 1, the day starts with a celebration of mass in this church at 8.00 with music for choir and orchestra by Franz Schubert.  The procession starts at 9.00.

Many of the people are in some way connected with one of the most important aspects of village life:  the Heuriger, in what seems to be every third house along the way. These wine taverns and their vintners have been a part of the town as far back as 1248 when they were first mentioned in writing.  Today they are one of the most important economic factors in the community of about 20,000 people.  Growing wine and serving it in one of the many locations around the town is what brings many Viennese out from the big city.  There are ornate rod iron signs at the entrances to the village which tell the guests which Heurige are open at any particular time, although the more modern-minded guest can check the internet before leaving home by looking at www.perchotoldsdorf.com.

Further along the route is mighty defence tower of Perchtoldsdorf, completed  after 70 years in 1521 when the clock was added.  It stands free and tall against a backdrop of the majestic 13th century church, the ruins of a 12th century Babenburg castle (used each summer for stage performances) still surrounded by thick pines and make up one side of the main market square, whose Baroque Pestsäule remembers the gratitude of the village for its deliverance from the Bubonic Plague.  Shops on the square sell spicy gingerbread and candles as they have in the same blue and pink house since 1648, to pastries and a chocolate candy ball similar to the Mozart kugel, Perchtoldsdorf Turkenkugle, or Turkish Cannon Ball, in memory of the two Turkish assaults on the village in 1529 and 1683.

There are six small museums in the town that are open in the summer, usually on Saturday and Sundays.  Private tours may be given by calling the cultural section of the local authorities at:  866 83/211 or 212.  The museums include ones for the composer Franz Schmidt (1874-1903) or the Lieder composer Hugo Wolf (1860-1903),but also historical museums including one of the history of the village itself, the Ottoman and Deutschmeister (military band) museums or the Museum of the Fire Department.

Open on weekends all summer long, the museums close after another major event of the village, the Hütereinzug.  This parade takes place the Sunday after St. Leonhard’s day  (usually at the beginning of November) and is celebrated in thanks for a good harvest.  The Hüter, or protectors of the vineyards, could return to their homes from the vigil they had kept day and night to safeguard the grapes before harvest.  The parade, speeches and a mass held in the ancient parish church commemorate the event every year.

When the celebration is over, and you have seen village streets of Perchtoldsdorf,  you might want to walk through the hills and woods behind the church.  A visit to the Heide (heath) behind the city will work up an appetite, for a Heuriger where the food is good and the wine better.  In summer you can also sit in the vineyards themselves and bring hot dogs to roast on an open fire.  Special “P-taxis” are available to and from the Liesing train station or the Siebenhirten subway.

 

Check the schedule of events at 

www.perchtoldsdorf.at

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